ST.PETERSBURG, January 16 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Antarctic Expedition refused to assist a daring British expedition on Wednesday in its attempt to make a first-ever winter expedition to the South Pole.
The group of explorers aboard the ship SA Agulhas ship left Cape Town earlier this month for the historic winter expedition across the Antarctic. The six-member expedition, headed by veteran explorer Ranulph Fiennes, faces harsh winter conditions including permanent darkness and temperatures of around minus 70 Celsius degrees.
Their trek was supposed to start in March from the Russian base of Novolazarevskaya (‘Novo’) to the US Captain Scott base at McMurdo Sound.
The explorers will have to change their starting point, however, after Russia turned them down, saying it could not take responsibility for possible rescue operations, Russian Antarctic Expedition chief Valery Lukin said in a statement on Wednesday.
“No national Antarctic program has any transport equipment for such operations in winter, therefore Russia had to issue a refusal” a statement on the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute’s website says.
Britain’s Foreign Office officially requested Russia’s Foreign Ministry in August 2012 “to assist this non-governmental expedition,” Lukin said.
Lukin suggested the British expedition instead use camp facilities belonging to the Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions company in the Schirmacher Oasis, some 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Novolazarevskaya station.
Lukin also criticized such expeditions, claiming if emergency rescue operations were needed they would hinder the work of research teams and put crews of vessels and planes based in the Antarctic at additional risk. There are no dedicated emergency or rescue services in Antarctic waters.
Fiennes, 68, is described by the Guinness World Records as the world’s greatest living explorer. In 2000 he attempted a sole expedition to the North Pole, but failed, losing most fingers on his left hand to frostbite, later amputating them with a saw.
His team plans to undertake a number of scientific tasks to provide unique data on marine life, oceanography and meteorology during their Antarctic voyage, according to Fiennes’ website. The expedition also aims to raise money for Seeing is Believing, which is campaigning to fight avoidable blindness.